THE TRIUMPH OF MEANNESS by Nicolaus Mills

THE TRIUMPH OF MEANNESS

America's War Against Its Better Self

KIRKUS REVIEW

 By introducing left-wing backlash into the right-wing's culture wars, Mills further sharpens this acrimonious debate. Mills (American Studies/Sarah Lawrence Coll.; ed., Legacy of Dissent, 1994) begins with the premise that enemies can serve a function in politics. When the end of the Cold War left America enemyless, some people turned inward to identify new pariahs. Despite the implausibility of the notion that the weakest or most marginal elements of American society--e.g., welfare recipients and the poor, recent immigrants, homosexuals--pose a vital threat to the country, these and other groups have been targeted in vitriolic attacks spearheading a turn toward mean-spiritedness. It's as if the stakes, emotions, and rhetoric of the Cold War, characterized by a threat to national survival and easily couched in terms of good versus evil, have been imported directly into domestic politics. In this context, conservatives do not just find liberals confused, they are a fundamental threat to civilization that must be extirpated from society, if not humanity. Paranoia and prejudice are not new phenomena in American politics, of course. But Mills argues that the current incarnation is more virulent and widespread, and completely unapologetic. In surveying the business world, race and gender relations, immigration policy, the press, and politics as characterized by the Republican Contract with America of 1996, he finds that the kings and queens of mean proudly embrace the characterizations of their critics; they revel in their nastiness. The most interesting thing about this book by a leftist (Mills is a coeditor of Dissent), however, is the odd way it parallels its right-wing targets. Both sides overgeneralize from observations that do deserve serious consideration, and rather than complaining about popular culture from the right and nostalgically embracing an idealized version of the 1950s, Mills complains about popular culture from the left and nostalgically embraces an idealized version of the 1960s. A provocative counterattack.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-82296-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997




MORE BY NICOLAUS MILLS

NonfictionTHEIR LAST BATTLE by Nicolaus Mills
by Nicolaus Mills
NonfictionTHE NEW KILLING FIELDS by Nicolaus Mills
by Nicolaus Mills
NonfictionLEGACY OF DISSENT by Nicolaus Mills
by Nicolaus Mills

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionTHE AGE OF AUSTERITY by Thomas Byrne Edsall
by Thomas Byrne Edsall